Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Smart workers!

The other day I was discussing the idea of social learning with a colleague and suggested that we were an organisation based on 'knowledge workers'. My colleague looked at me incredulously and asked me what's a knowledge worker? Of course I launched into a spiel around what constituted a worker in the knowledge economy and promoted the view that we should all be identifying ourselves as knowledge workers.

Predictably my colleague insisted that she would never be anything as disdainful as a 'knowledge worker' and there was no way people in our organisation would ever consider themselves to be knowledge workers! My colleague didn't object to the description and how I defined knowledge workers. However, she totally rejected the label of 'knowledge worker'.

This got me thinking about the power of language and the important role that words and phrases play in the introduction of new ideas into an organisation. These new terms can be perceived both negatively and positively depending on their interpretation. The introduction of new descriptors into an organisation as part of a process to enhance knowledge management, collaboration and social learning is no arbitrary matter.

The words and catchphrases are integral to marketing a new approach and engaging the very people you need to take on the journey. The new language creates a convention and framework for communicating the new way - it needs to be received positively - it also lets people signal their intention to embrace and adopt the new way.

Although I like this term - knowledge worker - it's the concept that Peter Drucker introduced in 1959, more than the name, that appeals to me. Perhaps 'knowledge worker' has too much of an academic flavour to be absorbed into the language of our organisation? We need something that's  lighter, more contemporary, maybe sexier and a bit more fun!

Jane Hart promotes the concept of  Smart Workers who are "clearly web-savvy but they are also highly motivated, committed and dedicated to their work and have a clear desire to do their job as well as they can and improve their own performance wherever possible".

Smart workers approach learning at work as a modus operandi and utilise social media tools in a variety of ways to meet the challenges of work. Jane Hart identifies 8 key features to characterise what makes a smart worker:

  1. Recognises that she learns continuously whilst doing her job
  2. Wants immediate solutions to his performance problems
  3. Is happy to share what he knows
  4. Relies on a trusted network of friends and colleagues
  5. Learns best with and from others
  6. Keeps up to date with his industry and profession
  7. Constantly strives to improve her productivity
  8. Thrives on autonomy

These are qualities worth aspiring to, and I'd certainly  like to see our people break out of their cocoons and emerge from a metamorphosis as smart workers. So perhaps I'll start spreading the idea of redefining our learning culture with - 'Smart Workers'!

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